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The National Bank of Australia has inked a noncash agreement with ATM-network operator Cuscal to expand the bank's ATM network from 1,700 ATMs to 3,100, the Melbourne-based bank tells CardLine Global. Combining the bank's network and Cuscal's network "will save each other's customers more than AU$10 million (US$8 million and 5.7 million euro) in ATM direct charges annually," a spokesperson for the bank tells CardLine Global. Cuscal's ATM fleet contains 1,400 machines. Cuscal developed its rediATM network after the Reserve Bank of Australia introduced direct charging in March as part of its ATM reforms. "We expect the deal will improve competition between ATM providers," says the spokesperson. Many of the ATM-network partnerships are a result of the ATM direct-charging laws that came into effect on 3 March, Peter Arnold, a financial analyst with Aus-based research firm Cannex, tells CardLine Global. "Previously, each bank charged their customers a fee for going to another bank's ATM, and each of the banks charged each other for these transactions," he says. "Now the ATM owner sets the fee for each transaction and receives the fee directly from the account from which money is being withdrawn." The laws are intended to increase transparency and competition, he adds. However, Matthew Sinclair, executive director with Australia-based consulting firm Carpadium Consulting, believes there may be too much price competition for ATM fees. "I expect that we will probably see the opposite as some of the third-party ATM-service providers move to discriminatory pricing mechanisms, like charging AU$5 or more for a withdrawal inside a night club or other captive environments," he says.

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